Cultural Studies Interdisciplinary Graduate Program: Theses

Permanent URI for this collection


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 5 of 167
  • Item
    The fictions of poverty: Food insecurity and children’s literature
    (2024-05-14) Day, Dian; Cultural Studies; Power, Elaine
    In this dissertation I examine the ways in which ideas about poverty and poverty-related food insecurity circulate within children's middle grade fiction. Through a variety of approaches, I examine how this literature, as a literature of and for the powerless, creates and supports the socioeconomic and political status quo. I begin by reviewing the existing secondary literature on poverty in children's books before turning to a study of the way food and food insecurity more specifically make an appearance in middle school literature. I explore the ways three common tropes operate with particular strength within stories about food insecurity: that of gender (especially mothering); the association of poverty with ignorance; and the taken-for-granted superiority of middle-class values and knowledge. Overall, these books’ singular focus on individual solutions to overcoming food insecurity renders invisible both the pervasiveness of systemic barriers and the possibilities of collective action to counter inequities. Looking to move beyond a mere recognition and critique of the issues present in extant texts I create a fiction of my own, in an arts-based research project, that strives to address the most taken-for-granted but nonetheless problematic of these stereotypes; the graphic novel script for Stuffing the Bus tells the story of two young protagonists, one of whom is food insecure, who explore the difficult issue of food insecurity without easy answers or individualistic solutions—but I also remain focused, ultimately, on telling a good story. In a subsequent section, I explore the writing process and my writerly decisions in depth as I worked to create a story that provides a critical counterpoint to entrenched economic inequities. I conclude that individually- and charity-focused solutions to food insecurity only serve to support their perpetuation, and that real change towards fewer hungry and food insecure children (and adults) will come only through community-supported efforts toward systemic change. I hope that creating new fictions will contribute to that work.
  • Item
    Amazonification: A Warehouse Worker’s Manifesto
    (2024-03-19) Ali, Hiba; Cultural Studies; Pelstring, Emily; Zaiontz, Keren
    This research-creation dissertation portfolio draws upon strategies of art-activism and uses a manifesto format to critique and subvert the exploitative labour practices of the Amazon corporation. Linked to each portfolio chapter is a custom-made, online 3D art project, or digital thinking object, in the shape of a globe that was created using the modelling platform SketchFab. Located on the Amazon “globe,” signifying the global nature of Amazon’s impact, are five different symbolic objects that function as entry points to the five manifesto essays of this dissertation, which include references and links to documentation of my anti-Amazon art practice. The introduction, “Amazonification: A Warehouse Worker’s Manifesto,” is represented through a palm tree, whose many leaves denote a network where shipping infrastructure is repurposed into sites for community-oriented acts of care. Chapter one, “Define Amazon” is symbolized by Danbo, Amazon’s “adorable” cardboard mascot whose “cuteness” obscures the violence of Amazon’s labour practices. In chapter two, “Seeing Orange,” symbolized through an orange ball, I make connections between Amazon’s orange mascot, Peccy, and prison jumpsuits, carcerality, and labour exploitation, and reclaim the colour as a colour of healing by invoking Orange Shirt Day in Canada, Buddhist robes, marigolds, and mehndi. In the third art manifesto chapter, “Peccy: the Fiction of a ‘Happy’ Worker,” I position the mascot’s eyes as the corporation’s surveillance infrastructure, and the mascot’s (non-gendered and non-raced) “blob” body as the dehumanization of Amazon’s predominantly racialized workers’ bodies. In the final manifesto essay, “Ongoing Struggle: Unionizing Environments in Chicago, Bessemer, and Minneapolis” the Amazon Workers’ International logo symbolizes the labour activism of Chicago’s DCH1, Bessemer’s BHM1, and Minneapolis’ MSP1 warehouse workers’ challenges for unionization between 2018 to 2021, activities crucial to resisting labour exploitation and building community. This dissertation does not just critique Amazon; it prompts viewers to begin to envision a different future. By foregrounding labour unions and the experiences of poor, working-class, Black and brown Amazon warehouse workers, I call for the fostering of a compassionate “network of care.” This portfolio dissertation is a call to hold a multiplicity of pathways toward this future self-determined by the people whose labour Amazon exploits: pathways that range from advocating for better workplace conditions, to shrinking the corporation, to divesting, to dismantling and abolishing the corporation.
  • Item
    From Unsettling to UN/making: One Settler’s Critical Methodology for Disrupting Anthropocenic Perspectives and Gestures Towards Land within the Visual Arts
    (2024-03-19) Price, Jill Angela; Cultural Studies; Rogalsky, Matt
    Hyper-sensitive to my settler history amidst a material culture that remains complicit in the ecological destruction of Land as a multi-species being, From Unsettling to UN/making is an interdisciplinary research-creation PhD that works at the intersections of art, ecology, ethics, and aesthetics to recognize how today’s global industrial modes of production, consumption, dissemination, and discard are neo-colonial forms of ecological, and therefore cultural genocide. Particularly unsettled by how the visual arts perpetuates anthropocenic perspectives and gestures, this thesis begins by investigating how past approaches to unmaking throughout art history often aligned with acts of destruction or self-destruction. Proposing a new interdisciplinary approach to UN/making that aligns with acts of care and repair, research and creative outputs were primarily formulated through the writing of political theorist, eco-feminist, and vital materialist Jane Bennett, as well as the writing of Unangax̂ scholar Eve Tuck, Natalie Loveless, and Natasha Myers to arrive at an assemblage actions or processes that help to prevent or redress harm. Initially driven through the deconstruction and reconfiguration of existing artworks, decolonial theory, environmental research, and new materialist thinking led to questioning the conceptual foundations of Land-based art practices and Euro-colonial aesthetics carried forward through methods, mediums, modes, and iconography of Canadian traditions of fine art. Out of a desire to understand how creatives and cultural institutions might work together to bring creative practice more into relation with the timelines, liveliness, and needs of more-than-human ontographies, my final outcomes are the result of employing different methods of dealienation, decentring, degrowth, and decolonization to arrive at an UN/making Methodology. This adaptable framework for UN/making harm is designed to help usher in more eco-ethical approaches to creative production and building community outside of accelerated, elitist, racist, and sexist capitalist systems that keep the culture industry beholden to harmful ways of thinking and doing, as well as refocus attention to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action as they pertain to the treatment and use of Land, education, and the production, presentation, and dissemination of art.
  • Item
    The Threshold for Gathering
    (2024-03-13) Georgeson-Usher, Camille; Cultural Studies; Robinson, Dylan
    The Threshold for Gathering takes shape as an ontology of gatherings, highlighting the liminal elements that build gatherings, and how we collectively change the shape of space. Gatherings have the immense capacity to show us how the micro and macro elements of how we come to these spaces are representational of larger societal patterns. Through this research-creation based dissertation, the autotheoretical approach brings theory together with the methodology of long-distance running to create poetic interventions and ideas for gathering differently. Individual workouts represent a series of physical gatherings, that shift the rhythm of the writing through a sensed and embodied literary structuring. This dissertation questions what it might look like if we were to gather with all of ourselves—the messy, (un)prepared, undone, contradictory compositions of what it means to be human—and how these types of gathering might be the elements required for a future that is more just and equitable. The three key questions are: 1. At what point do our intimate lives bleed over into the spaces for gathering? 2. How do we hold ourselves and one another in the spaces between gathering? 3. What marks the threshold for gathering? This dissertation highlights some complexities of what it means to be a diasporic Indigenous person who lives on lands that are not where their ancestors are from, with the mounting pressure to know everything about who they are all at once, but instead find themselves between knowing and unknowing, belonging and unbelonging. The writing’s shape follows suit of the ocean, continually moving towards its next shape, colliding with new bodies of water, removing that which does not serve it anymore. In The Threshold for Gathering we might come to understand how we each have the immense capacity to shift space and in making these shifts we find new possibilities outside of oppression and colonialism, but futures otherwise.
  • Item
    Land Matters: Stories of Survival, Peasant Roots & Peasant Futurisms
    Fejzic, Sanita; Cultural Studies; Willmott, Glenn
    Combining my literary writing practice with academic research, this doctoral research-creation project reads ecological and social violence as “one phenomenon” caused by early capitalism and intensifying after the industrial revolution in 1850, and especially after the neoliberal tide post-1945 (Moore 120-136). My project responds to the social, ecological and climate crisis subjectively, from my situated knowledge. As a type of life writing that tends toward autotheory, the “Stories of Survival” section deconstructs narratives of empire building, colonization, nation-state borders of exclusion, and the often-traumatic experiences of a refugee, illegal immigrant, and temporary guest who immigrated to Canada not by choice, but as an act of survival. This opening section is told from the point of view of my (severed) relationship to land and sets the narrative and theoretical context for the next two chapters. Disillusioned by my stories of survival, the “Peasant Roots” chapter returns to my ancestral past and explores the life of my Bosniak (Muslim Bosnian) peasant grandparents through knowledges, values, and practices of subsistence farming and self-sustainability; local gift, barter and exchange economies; the čaršija (farmers’ market) as a mechanism for local economies (Lockwood 120); komšiluk (neighbourhood life), halal exchange, and collaborative labour as practices of mutual aid (Henig 3); the zadruga (multigenerational household) and peasant minimalism (Barić 3-7). From these peasant roots, I articulate a kind of re-enchantment through an alternative futurity which I call “Peasant Futurisms.” So as not to reproduce white supremacy and other forms of domination, this subaltern world-building project is a work of political art meant to be taken up by members of what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call “the undercommons,” including Black, Indigenous, queer, trans, poor, disabled and peasant folk. As a nexus of neoliberal power, cities and urban lifeworlds represent patterns of power, capital, and nature that must be challenged. Peasant Futurisms challenges capitalist cities built for cars and big commerce by sketching edible and wilder ecocities surrounded by protected greenbelts and peasant/regenerative organic farmer belts within local cyclical economies.